PONs turn to Ethernet

By Mary Jander, Network World |  Networking

The IEEE created a separate Ethernet PON project in November, including a study group called "Ethernet in the First Mile," which is focusing on Ethernet PONs as well as xDSL. Interest in the new IEEE group was reportedly overwhelming, and a meeting will convene at the IEEE P802.3 interim committee meeting in Irvine, Calif., the week of January 8, to discuss its agenda.

But potential members of the new Ethernet PON consortium say the industry shouldn't wait for the IEEE. The IEEE could take years to standardize new specs, and it's important to get industry consensus on a standard spec as quickly as possible.

"We've seen this movie before," says RelevantC's Markey. He says the efforts to promote ann Ethernet PON spec remind him of efforts to create an Ethernet-based spec for cable modems, which ultimately resulted in the Data Over Cable Systems Interface Specification (DOCSIS). "The two years it took for DOCSIS to form resulted in vendors losing key opportunities in the access market," he says. He hopes the lesson isn't lost on the PON vendors.

On the downside, some analysts warn that Ethernet PONs may not meet everyone's expectations. "The PON market will grow, but not necessarily because Ethernet is used instead of ATM," says Alan Bezoza, access analyst at CIBC World Markets. He says the cost of laying fiber, which can run carriers $300,000 to $700,000 per mile (approximately 70% of which are labor costs that aren't likely to come down over time), is what's holding up PONs in general. And he argues that the price difference between ATM PONs and Ethernet PONs "won't be all that significant on a per-subscriber basis."

Nevertheless, would-be members of the new consortium are intent on their goal. "We just want to show the ATM folks that other options make sense," Stehlin says.

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